Disposable Men: Millennial Rejection of Marriage and Mennonite Bachelors

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​We live in an age that prefers convenience over conservation.  We do not want long-term commitment to that plastic cup at the picnic over the weekend or anything else really.  Even marriage has become disposable and cheap to match the current generation.

Marriage in the conservative Mennonite community is one of those things that has not undergone this silverware to plastic transformation.  Divorce is not an option for those raised in this tradition.  However—having been otherwise assimilated into the prevailing culture—many of us are choosing to divorce from a marriage commitment altogether and remain single.

In some cases there can be abstinence from marriage for religious and other good reasons.  Paul wrote: “Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man (unmarried) to remain as he is.” (1 Corinthians 7:26) That recommendation likely being for the “present crisis” of widespread persecution and the coming destruction of Jerusalem.

But, the awkward unholy alliance of Mennonite and millennial values is not a Christian ideal.

In this age I suspect the choice to remain single is often selfish and simply a reflection of millennial generation values having rubbed off on us.  To many marriage seems inconvenient, it would impose on their freedom to travel the world and require maturation.  We, like other millennials, postpone our adulthood and some would rather remain perpetually childish.

There is some difference between us as conservative Mennonites and the typical millennial.  We, unlike them, are afraid to date and young women encouraged to turn down all suitors who do not fit their (or their mother’s) idealistic list of requirements.  They are convinced (and perhaps because of a culture too focused on women being submissive) not to take a risk until they simply lose interest.

You’ll note that I’ve positioned women as the gatekeepers to courtship and marriage and that’s because they are.  It is the one place in conservative Mennonite culture where they know their voice is heard.  Can we really blame a young woman, especially one raised around a patriarchal dad or controlling brothers, for being reluctant to sign away her independence?

Unfortunately her reluctance is not equally matched by male counterparts.  I know many exasperated unmarried guys who followed all the rules, who jumped through all the hoops, and have only known rejection.  A good Mennonite guy will not even get a first date unless he is judged worthy by some incomprehensible measure.

Our not choosing commitment in the present will cost our faith and future potential. 

I’m all for choice and choosing wisely.  However, that is something altogether different from choosing not to choose altogether for fear of choosing incorrectly.  There is an unbalance in favor of over-caution (or a commitment phobia) that could result in lasting consequences and serious disappointment if not addressed.  

Marriage, a relationship where Christian commitment to self-sacrificial love is tested and exampled, should not be so easily discarded.  Men, especially non-resistant men who can’t serve society as soldiers and police, have strong desire for something of tangible concrete value to protect.  Women, by contrast, can have this need to nurture fulfilled in caretaking, a career in the medical profession or elsewhere, and even profit handsomely.

A single man is often ineligible for leadership positions in the church.  Conservative Mennonite employers often offer less compensation men without families or overlook them entirely.  And, in youth obsessed American culture, his disadvantage only grows and increase in age only increases the stigma.  The married men brag from the pulpit how their lovely wife made them everything they are while the bachelor wonders why he is amongst those unworthy.

That’s not to say that there aren’t many unmarried and wanting women either.  For as many young women who got asked two dozen times and said “no” every time, there’s also probably as many who never got asked once.  It is because Mennonite guys won’t risk asking a girl who doesn’t fit their list of requirements for fear of rejection and getting a reputation for a girl they were unsure about to begin with.

Yet, in my estimation, it is unmarried men and the future of the church that are hurt most in the current paradigm.  Our culture is still traditional enough that a single woman can expect to be under the care of her parents.  She can enjoy a special flexibility whilst waiting for her white knight.  Not true of her brothers, they can’t afford to go on adventures and yet risk being judged as unspiritual for preparing for the responsibility of marriage.

Unmarried conservative Mennonite men are the most disposable.  We must be always available without complaint at a moments notice and be providers protection without compromise.  It is pathetic, actually, what men give out for free.  But to be more guarded, to carefully guard our hearts as something precious or preservable, and keep our strengths to ourselves is impermissible.  

We must be like a paper plate, an adequate stand-in performer, something wanted around for temporary use, and okay to be tossed in the trash.  And, yet, we must also live up to the traditional Mennonite male role and display the qualities of fine chinaware.

Respect your own value if you wish to be respected.

Here’s my recommendation for those single people who wish to be married and have been routinely rejected or overlooked: Stop grovelling in front of the unappreciative, open your eyes like Peter did envisioning the expansion of the church (Acts 10:9-16) and open the doors of your wedding feast to those who understand the value you intend to offer them.

Jesus spoke about not casting our pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6) and not persisting with those who do not value us: “If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:5) We might want to consider this advice when the value of our commitment is rejected in our own communities.

Loyalty can be a fault.  There are unmarried men and women outside your own religious community who might better appreciate your Christian testimony.  So don’t waste the remainder of your virile years wondering why the ‘right one’ won’t even have coffee with you.  

God isn’t a Mennonite and, as a faithful child of God, you aren’t garbage. 

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32 thoughts on “Disposable Men: Millennial Rejection of Marriage and Mennonite Bachelors

  1. Largely well said. It’s good for men to speak with intelligence and depth about men’s issues.

    “Can we really blame a young woman, especially one raised around a patriarchal dad or controlling brothers, for being reluctant to sign away her independence?”

    ^Hmm. In my experience, plenty of the overly cautious/reluctant young women have not really grown up with terribly domineering fathers/brothers. I’m more inclined to blame the courtship culture. However, the point that courtship is one arena in which many Mennonite women are allowed to be gatekeepers is an insightful one.

    “Men, especially non-resistant men who can’t serve society as soldiers and police, have strong desire for something of tangible concrete value to protect.”

    ^This is a great point and food for thought. For someone with with a powerful drive to protect, the military and law enforcement must have a strong pull. In the political sense, nonresistance is a lot easier for women than for men.

    As for your closing remarks, since I’ve forayed into online dating I can say that I’ve noticed more overt attention from men than I’ve ever gotten from my male Mennonite peers at home (though Mennonite guys also seem more forward online).

    Now that I’ve broadened my playing field, I’ve found myself sought after not in spite of my quirks but more because of them. But despite this, I’ve never been asked out by any Mennonite fellow in my own social circles.

    In a sense this contrast is saddening and frustrating. As a Mennonite, I’d like the kind of attention and appreciation I’ve gotten online from my fellow Mennonites.

    But perhaps this is one of the unseen affects of the courtship culture on American Mennonites: rejected young Mennonite men and undesired young Mennonite women end up leaving for the women who accept them and the men who desire them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think Mennonite men are as overtly domineering as others in the fundamentalist camp. However, there is strong emphasis of gender roles from the pulpit—women are encouraged to take their place with praise that sounds an awful lot like pressure and expected to control male impulses from afar. Would it be any wonder if this kind of male passive-aggressiveness would be met with an even more passively passive-aggressive response? Would it be a surprise that those often portrayed as objects of male lust would reject our attention altogether?

      I think there is some deep female resentment for men in conservative Mennonite circles that often goes undiagnosed. That said, I do not see that as the case with you and believe you would give a guy a chance. I believe you did have a father who valued you as more than the doer of laundry or picker of drapes and did show some respect. I recall both mom and dad were supportive of Olivia’s choice to pursue a medical career, which would not be the case in every household in our own congregation. I know one woman who said as much about her own daughters.

      But, alas, this is a complicated business. There are many forces at work, many influences that have played their part in shaping the current situation, and my blog more just an attempt to bring some awareness than it is to present any precise explanation. So thank you for adding your own perspective. I pray you can find a man who affirms both your intelligence and faith. You are an amazingly strong and capable person.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Emily Sara Smucker

    Very interesting blog post. I sincerely appreciate the male viewpoint on this subject, but was simultaneously a little irritated by it, because I felt as though a chunk of the puzzle was missing. Here are my two cents on what is missing from this analysis, from a single female perspective:

    1. Maybe I just run in different circles than you, or maybe I just don’t want to be seen as selfish, but I have not observed Mennonite young people stay single for selfish reasons. I would like to know what you based this on.

    2. You mentioned that Mennonite girls have the advantage of being able to live at home until they marry. I view this a little differently. A Mennonite man can, through physical strength and the connections that a community can provide, get a really good job and afford to live on his own. A Menno woman has a much harder time doing this. She is often stuck teaching school or working at a bent-and-dent store for minimum wage.

    3. It stands to reason then, given the lack of good jobs within the community, that the longer women go without getting married the more they reach outside of the community for employment. This includes mission work, going to college, working for non-Mennonite-owned establishments, etc.

    Here’s where I present my hypothesis: I think that, in general, life gets better for unmarried Mennonite women while it gets worse for unmarried Mennonite men. As women are forced outside the community in order to find jobs that are more fulfilling and/or pay better, getting married to the standard Mennonite man seems less and less appealing.

    Consider your average 19-year-old Mennonite female, with little to no training as a teacher, trying to teach three grades in one classroom while getting paid minimum wage. A handsome man with a good job wants to marry her. Hmm, she could be a mommy and have a spouse to take care of her and provide for her. She is very likely to want to get married.

    Now, consider that no one has asked this Mennonite female, and she gets so sick and tired of teaching that she decides to become a nurse. She gets her degree and a world of possibilities opens up: she could go on the mission field, she could get a well-paying job, but no matter what, she can use her talents and training to help people. Now, a handsome man with a good job wants to marry her. Most likely she still wants to get married. But she looks at the guy, and he has spent his whole life working for his dad and living at home. And she knows that this world of possibility she has ventured into will be closed to her if she marries him.

    In short, I think older single Menno guys would have a whole lot more luck with older single Menno girls if they too would venture out of their community and broaden their world.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Emily, thank you for your assistance in adding some of those missing pieces of the puzzle. I can’t speak for every community or situation and (due, in part, to the unwillingness of my local conservative female counterparts to engage in this dialogue) I am somewhat limited to speculation about the ‘other’ side, but I can try to answer your points in response:

      1) I suppose my strong wording was a result of my reading up on the Eastern Orthodox view of marriage this weekend in which the act of marriage to another is a dying to ourselves:

      “The word “martyr” means witness. The common life of the bride and groom is to bear witness to the Presence of Christ in their lives and in the world. Martyrdom is usually associated with death. So the reality of God’s Kingdom in the life of the husband and wife will necessarily take the form of dying to one’s self, to one’s will, and the giving of one’s life totally to the other, and through the other, to Christ.”

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_in_the_Eastern_Orthodox_Church

      Now, I could be wrong in this, but it does seem to me that many choose not to marry because they believe they don’t need a spouse to reach their own full potential. That is a selfish reasoning if you consider that the available spouse might need them to reach their full potential.

      I also know it is not uncommon to for people to reject marriage unless their own requirements are met. Again, who is that serving? Could it be that the ‘right’ person isn’t always the most exciting, mysterious or, dare I say, initially attractive type?

      (Those comments applying to both genders equally, btw…)

      2) I suppose this is something that varies from community to community. However, I’m pretty sure my single younger sister makes more money in less hours than I do and I know that the college educated women outnumber their male counterparts. Where I am men have stuck to more traditional jobs, while women are getting degrees in nursing or education and working outside the Mennonite community.

      I will say though, that women who look for work within the Mennonite community will likely be paid and appreciated less than an equally qualified man. I know this was the case with a female relative of mine and is something I have heard from others as well. But, those who go outside Mennonite run schools or thrift stores own properties and probably put me to shame in what they have been able to save.

      3) Your analysis seems reasonable. Mennonite women, like their secular counterparts, have outperformed men and thus would be going against their own self-interest to marry a guy with less income potential than their own. Which goes back to my response to your point #1 and makes me wonder if the reasons why we are marrying (or rather why we are not marrying) are selfish?

      I guess the question I should be asking is if men have a usefulness to women besides the traditional role of bread winner? It seems there could be some underlying materialistic motives here worth discussing. Men are attracted to physical beauty and I don’t think it is unfair to say women want a man with power or at least one who can provide them with nicer things.

      It is probably true that conservative Mennonite men will need to adapt to the higher expectations and new values of their women. Or, they can take my advice, and find the many women outside their communities who know that there is more to life than worldly wealth or power. Perhaps it is time for more of them to move on to where their values will be more fully appreciated and useful.

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  3. Joel, I agree there is a problem, I’m just think there is more to it than what’s addressed here (as Emily pointed out). My personal experience hasn’t been with the kind of ladies who have a list. I was turned down once and accepted once (duh, right? 🙂). But the rejection was so healthy for me.

    I’m not sure I’d say the gatekeepers are the ladies. I think Mennonite men haven’t been taught how to befriend women. Because of that a man is either awkward in a lady’s presence or he is friendly in the wrong way and ends up leading ladies on. My guess is many ladies turn guys down because they’re not sure if he’s into them as a person or because he wants to be married. There’s a distinct difference between the two and you will deal with it after marriage. So my encouragement would be fit guys not to make such a big deal about asking a girl out, but pursue her in friendship. If there can be anything further, it will come clear.

    Having said that, I do agree there is something fundamentally wrong with how our churches handle older singles. It feels rediculously awkward to be given more voice and credit as a younger married man than a brother who is older than me, who I know is much wiser and has more to offer. Marriage or singleness is not a sign of maturity or spirituality. If anything, we married people are often less mature. 😏

    Liked by 3 people

    • You are correct that there’s more to the issue than I was able to cover in this blog and I do lament the fact that I am unable to do better justice to the topic alone.

      But I suppose that is where the role of community comes in. I am presenting the problem and roughing in a solution, but hope that others will fill in or build where I have left off. I believe that these are problems that must be addressed by the community.

      As far as rejection, yes, all things can be made good by God. That does not mean, however, that I wish torturous death on anyone in hopes it will draw them closer to God. I would rather others learn the easy way and benefit from my own (sometimes abundantly painful) experience. My latest significant rejection (over two year ago now) did give me opportunity to reflect on the suffering of Jesus for people who rejected him, so I do understand the value. That said, rejection is something that gives diminishing returns and everyone needs hope that the end will be glory or why keep at it?

      As far as friendship, friendship is only possible if she is interested in taking the risk. I’ve tried low threshold of commitment relationship and even told girls that I wanted to get to know them better, but many equate even friendship to being a precursor to romantic relationship which makes it a forbidden fruit unless she is 110% sure he’s her marriage ideal. Heaven forbid she might start liking a guy who’s not her ideal match, right? Or maybe she’s just trying to help control this sex crazed maniac who thinks God spoke to him?

      There’s a disconnect somewhere, an unbalanced perspective or unrealistic expectation. Men are told to take leadership, which does come with risk of rejection, but it shouldn’t always or it will eventually neuter a man. In a world where “yes” was encouraged more I might recommend otherwise and tell guys to pursue female affection. However, in the current environment his availability makes her even less interested, he is cheapened by her and cheapens himself by treating her as if she’s his sister. Instead he should respect himself and go where he will be appreciated. There are many women of faith outside of the conservative Mennonite community who will value a man of character. If enough older unmarried men pull up and leave it may promote some reflection.

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  4. S

    Thanks Joel for raising the subject again. It’s one that needs more discussion in our Mennonite churches. I’m going to have to disagree with you though on the solution, in part because having grown up a Mennonite female I would prefer staying that way (not that I think it’s the only way), however there are cultural / family pressures which would quickly go into motion were a Mennonite female leave to catch a man. I would think it would be at least some what that way for a guy too, however he could leave with less drastic change (including but not limited to appearance). I have friends who have left the Mennonites say (after the fact) that leaving was much harder than they had envisioned, big cultural shock, and these were gals that did not live the most sheltered of lives before leaving, sheltered yes but moderately so.

    My second problem with your purposed solution is that in particularly on the male side it would seem that too much leaving has happened already, though not all for the marriage reason, For example at the Penn Valley Singles Retreat this year, I heard (wasn’t there), out of 211 registered, 43 were guys. 20% male & 80% female. If I were to count up the single Mennonites that I’m acquainted with who are 30+ the ratio would probably be similar (it’s an exercise I should attempt but I’ve been around numerous blocks several times and I might miss a block or two). 1:4, Whose favor would the odds seem to be in?

    Third objection. I’ve also looked outside the Mennonite bubble enough to see the getting-to-marriage issue isn’t limited to a Mennonite problem. Boundless.org has a lot to say on the subject.

    Objection 4. Men are not disposable, whether married or single, Mennonite or otherwise.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I appreciate the push back. Perhaps you are right that my suggestion is a bit too reactionary and rash. I agree that there are significant cultural differences to be bridged for those who decide to take my advice to its fullest extent. My proposal was more intended as a shot over the bow of the conservative Mennonite status quo and deliberately a miss to make a point.

      I guess, with ratios like that, I should regret having not given Penn Valley a shot. Perhaps my cynicism (or more fear that it would be a wasted effort) cost me that opportunity? Oh well, I’m in a bit of a complicated situation and therefore would be unable to pursue a relationship with the necessary peace of mind. I was probably, all said and done, right for staying home this time. But I will try to get the word out to other eligible bachelors who are free of my current entanglements.

      As to your third point, I already have options outside of the Mennonite community and one a better woman of faith than most within it. Unfortunately I have some lingering unresolved questions about a young woman in my own denomination that prevents my moving forward with peace.

      Last, my point is that men are not disposable (single or married) and therefore should not put themselves in a position where they are regarded as such.

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  5. m

    A potential suitor not only has to “fit [the woman’s] idealistic list of requirements,” but he also has to fit the father’s requirements as well. I am not sure which one is worse.

    I have a couple of questions/thoughts for the women that are never pursued. Are you interacting with guys in a way that is friendly? I have had times where I have been somewhat interested in someone, but she seemed cold toward me so I figured why take the risk. Are you sure that your father isn’t filtering out the potential suitors? Maybe there have been some guys who have expressed an interest, but not made it through your father.

    I think there are other ways that women can get their need to nurture met. They can help take care nieces and nephews or even children not closely related to them. Another way that I believe single women meet this need is through having pets.

    Liked by 1 person

    • S

      Well since I fit into the never pursued category….

      Please take into account that not all personalities are the same. Us introverts probably tend to come across as less than friendly sometimes, particularly so on first acquaintance, and in large crowds which tend to overwhelm us. One on one not so good either, small groups are best. Not to excuse our temperament for friendliness is something we need to work on.

      There is also a possibility that coldness from a girl particularly if she is around you a lot means she does like you but for fear of chasing you she is going to go with the cold shoulder route. We won’t all respond the same because we aren’t the same.

      Keep in mind too that there may be other things going on in a girls life she is dealing with at the time. Two of my brothers had the misfortune of the first girls they asked having other guys also ask them with in a week. The one responded by turning both of them down. The other by going with the guy who asked first.

      Sometimes I think this whole getting to marriage difficulty would be so much easier if every story was the same. If there was a clearly defined set of rules with which to play the game. But how boring and predictable would that be! God does give us some choice in the matter.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Timing is definitely important. I also have that penchant for being slow to the draw and asking a little too late. Unfortunately, my overcompensating in the opposite direction and asking before a requisite amount of familiarity was established was probably as ruinous of my chances.

        I agree that we have choice. I know it is romantic to treat love as a predetermined fate or destiny, but that is a feeling that can pass and a good relationship is built on a Christian commitment to love no matter what. Love is a choice and we can choose to love or not to love.

        Anyhow, my presentation was skewed to the male perspective (after all, it is the one that I am most familiar with) and yet I know both sides suffer through pain of rejection. My aim here is to challenge the current paradigm and make it easier for unmarried people to take that initial step of faith. This generation is too full of fear.

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  6. Jason Croutch

    I understand your frustration – at least a little. I was 25 when I got married and most of my friends had already been married for several years. I believe the conservative Anabaptist church needs to think seriously about the issues you raise. We must do better at valuing singles – men and ladies.
    I do want to offer one word of caution about your next to last paragraph. While I am certain one does not need to be a conservative Anabaptist to be a child of God, I am equally convinced that the conservative Anabaptist church has a lot to offer to the world that other denominations can’t. When one chooses to leave the conservative Anabaptist church, he is usually giving up much more than he realizes.
    Don’t lose heart and keep doing what you can to help the rest of us to understand and care for the singles among us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, I do not recommend throwing all caution to the wind. Although, maybe some of what we offer to the world (meaning the faithful church outside our tradition) is diminished in value because we keep it to ourselves? For as much as we value our religious heritage there seems to be an awful lot of fear it would not win the argument outside of our own cloistered communities. But I am not ready to leave, not yet at least, and I would definitely miss it. I am comfortable in my Mennonite shoes and perhaps too comfortable…

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  7. I grew up both homeschooled and Mennonite. We left the Mennonite church when I was 14 and homechurched, but I still retained a lot of my “Mennoniteness” for a number of years thereafter. I was part of a BMA church where pastor preached courtship from the pulpit (based on the Song of Solomon–I won’t go into that…), and courtship was an integral part of the homeschool culture. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered that my parents weren’t as gung-ho for courtship as I thought they were, although I think they picked up more of the mindset than they realized.

    At least around some people, I get the feeling that if someone acts friendly to someone of the opposite gender, it’s looked at as potentially romantic. Maybe it’s just my background and perspective. However, in June I went to Shenandoah Christian Music Camp in Ohio. Despite being together for a whole week, things remained fairly segregated. Was there interaction between the sexes? Sure. But when it came time to eat, you would typically see a bunch of guys sitting at one table and a bunch of girls at another. When there’s 20 girls sitting at a table, I feel a little weird about sitting down with them. And if I do, I’m not sure that they would interact with me in a normal way.

    And then I read things like this article that my cousin wrote: https://radi-call.com/2016/06/12/what-every-guy-needs-to-know-about-modesty/
    I’m sure she means well, but from my perspective, it’s a difficult to know what is “crossing the line” and what isn’t, and I’m sure it varies from girl to girl. I feel reluctant about just walking up to a Mennonite girl and introducing myself for fear of being perceived as “too forward”. I’m sure that there are girls who also feel the same way.

    And here’s the catch: if the culture says that when someone shows interest in the opposite sex, it is romantic interest, then everything will be interpreted that way, regardless of true intent. In other words, if I believe when a girl walks up to me and introduces herself cold-turkey, that she is romantically interested in me, I will then view all cold-turkey introductions as romantic. The truth is, she might just be friendly. She might have less inhibitions about talking to the opposite sex than I do.

    Somehow, things have gotten messed up, and I’m not quite sure how to fix them.

    Oh yeah… in case you didn’t guess it by now… I’m still single.

    Liked by 2 people

    • There is momentum started in the wrong direction and I also struggle knowing how to respond. Some days I feel hopeful that my efforts to confront there problems will pay dividends and other times it seems a waste. The damage of the purity culture impossible courtship standard is already done, some will suffer the consequences and that is irreversible. However, I can at least lay the groundwork for a more faithful alternative. Maybe eventually more will be hungry for a change? Already my blogs on this painful and personal topic get the most attention, so maybe we are seeing the beginnings of a transition?

      What amazes me is how our Old Order brethren seem to get the job done. But us, with our embrace of evangelical innovations, our adoption Biblical fundamentalism and our ‘sophisticated’ commentators, we are going backwards…our grandparents did better, we should be ashamed and yet are we?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The current situation is absolutely ridiculous. If the overall relationship between single men and women in the Mennonite world could be personified as a couple in a sort of abstract marriage, our church leaders would be having continuous nightly counselling sessions for the next 4 months. There would be diagrams of the “crazy cycle” of mistrust and fear spiraling out of control over the past 20 years, the “crazy cycle” of getting along and being ok with a certain amount of risky dialog, there would be emergency meetings about how to correct the severe lack of communication between parties, there would also be singing by large families and preaching under huge tents and in the neighborhood megachurch buildings. Progress would be carefully measured and accountability groups formed, Leaders would begin to realize that casual dating is a better problem to have than severe pornography addiction (there’s a connection there, though not direct). Who knows? We might even find out that one of the most effective ways to bring in new members from the “outside” is by marrying them!

    As far as solutions go, I have a few novel and sure to be controversial ideas, perhaps as controversial as looking outside of Mennonite circles. They can be mostly summarized in four words:
    Date Early, Date Often

    Liked by 3 people

    • Your thoughts have resonance with my own. The idea of addiction being linked to a lack of connection is actually supported by a big and growing body of evidence. An addict is usually compensating (through unhealthy means) for something they are missing socially. Our churches aren’t communities anymore and those with a spouse are left severely deficient in meaningful intimate interactions.

      Anyhow, since it is relevant, here’s something I wrote (slightly modified for contextual sake) in the Facebook discussion of this blog and before I read your comment here:

      He’s afraid, she’s afraid, and those who somehow were successful are either indifferent or preaching the same graceless nonsense that keeps other confined by their fears. We need a change in thinking or we will increasingly lose our potency. This fear-based reasoning doesn’t just effect our romance, it actually gets down to our core beliefs about God and is at some level a rejection of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus came so we can live free of crippling fear. Jesus came to bring us life and life in abundance, but we are settling for materialistic selfish solitude because of our fears. It is absolutely a problem.

      Popular Mennonite snobs (generally married men or women) don’t understand a seeking single guy’s perspective. They thinks we can simply ask out any girl we want and that’s not true. Because we don’t date to get to know each other anymore and have limited interaction otherwise, a guy (unless he’s some kind of picture of perfection) must carefully consider the risks, the high likelihood of rejection no matter who he asks, and therefore be extremely selective. The girls, likewise terrified about making a mistake, and mistaking a date with engagement or one step away from lifetime commitment, turn down all suitors who don’t create the right initial sensation. The guy gets turned down, he fears his reputation is damaged, he must become even more selective and soon he won’t take a risk on any girl unless she reaches some kind of benchmark in his mind.

      We need to change that ^^^ and start promoting small steps of faith and soothing anxieties. Unfortunately some (see: popular Mennonite snobs) are intent on tromping down on the accelerator in the wrong direction by feeding the very fears that created the problem to begin with. It needs to stop. It needs to stop now. We need to repent of this faithless reasoning and promote what is good rather than dwell on the negative.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Like, like, like, both of your comments!

      Joel, you hit the nail on the head about fear.

      Have either of you read the book “Courtship in Crisis”? Joshua, I think he would go along with your “date early, date often” proposal.

      Your analogy of the dysfunctional couple is funny, but is so true.

      Somehow, we MUST break down the unhealthy barriers between guys and girls, just so we can be FRIENDS, for crying out loud, never mind girlfriends/boyfriends.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Tim

      I would greatly appreciate any biblical backing for your above mentioned philosophy of “Date Early, Date Often”. I understand that not all solid philosophies have specific verses that back them so if you could provide some more clear logical backing that would be a much appreciated alternative.

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      • Tim, I’ll let Joshua Marner defend his own position. However, I will say that the Biblical marrying age was before the age that many Mennonites are dating. We are following a worldly trend of postponing commitment and probably for the same basic reasons: Freedom from responsibility and ability to pursue our own individual ambitions.

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  9. Julie

    I read this post weeks ago and knew I had a response, but also knew it would take time to realize and formulate it. So here I am with my reply for what it’s worth.

    I think what I notice is the Mennonite assumption that marriage is where spiritual and social growth and maturity happen. To that I will say this. One of the reasons that marriage does indeed foster growth is because it is hard. Being in a close relationship with someone who is not perfect with no way of getting out is grueling and brings out the worst in most of us. This is a great way for us to see where we need redemption and is an awesome opportunity to invite God in. So yes, marriage can foster growth. But singleness has its own struggles as you know, and I (and for much of its history, Christendom also) believe that these struggles are just as capable of creating good in the lives of Christians as marriage. This doesn’t mean I’d like to be single. I do love being married. But I don’t believe that I couldn’t have developed as a person without it. This is something that I think Mennodom has missed in general.
    Something else I think about is that marriage is one of the only places many men (Menno or not) can have a close relationship. This is highly unfortunate, for many reasons and heightens the illusion that marriage is necessary for life and godliness. Because marriage is not, but relationships are. Anyway, my two cents for what they are worth.

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    • Good thoughts. I believe older singles do have a unique perspective that is useful in the church. I made a follow-up post about the blessings of being single. Have you read it?

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  10. W.

    As a 23yr old single Mennonite girl, I find these discussions very enlightening and interesting. Until about a year ago, I hadn’t heard anything from this point of view. I grew up reading books on purity, and heard teaching about what to do and not to do in dress and action. My views on courtship/dating followed basically what I’d been learning: 1. Girls must keep their hearts pure and uncommitted until asked. 2. When asked, girls should have a list of expectations and rules to protect them from getting hurt, only saying yes if marriage to that person is something they are ready to consider. In other words, no – unless it’s definitely right.
    Since I’ve been hearing more from the other point of view in the past year, I would still hold to my first opinion. I believe it is healthy for a girl to have good relationships with guys, but not right for a girl to choose one guy to commit to until given that opportunity.
    The second opinion has changed, though. I am beginning to see that guys have it a whole lot harder than girls in that they are expected to take the initiative, and are often rejected. Most of the girls I know were never asked, but I have known a couple girls who were asked more than once and refused. While I know that in some of these situations the answer was unavoidable, I honestly become frustrated with those who continue to reject offers. As one who has never been asked, it’s hard to not conclude that these girls have made it more difficult for the rest of us.
    Being naturally cautious about making big decisions, I cannot say just what I would do if asked. But I also have experienced many unplanned changes in my life that turned out to be wonderful, building my trust in a God who works things out for the best. I feel it is a fear issue to refuse to consider dating simply because the guy may not be the Prince Perfect a girl may have dreamed about. And fear is something that should never stand in the way of God’s will.
    On the other hand, the extreme measure of going outside the Mennonite culture to find someone can be another sign of fear. There are a lot of single Mennonite people, and I’ve also seen too often the negative effects of young Mennonites “going worldly.” While a committed Christian girl may hesitate more about saying yes, why would a non-Mennonite girl feel obligated to stay within a marriage if things didn’t go as she wanted? The decision is much bigger for Mennonites, and more binding.
    I cannot imagine going through the pain of rejection again and again – or even once. But I don’t believe the answer is in giving up. From a girl’s point of view, we don’t have it easy either. It is hard to be the one waiting, as we are taught how to be good wives and mothers and support our husbands – only to wonder if we will ever actually fulfill those roles. The culture around us looks at us like weirdos, while men aren’t usually viewed as so different from “normal”. Maybe I’m atypical in this way, but I don’t have a dream to become a career woman. And I have many friends who are the same way. All this to say that I believe godly men should be respected enough by godly women to have a chance at getting to know them better, even if the dating process does not end in marriage. And I think it’s very sad that many godly young people are still single because of fears on both sides.
    Not that marriage should be the end goal of all single young people – I believe it is very possible to serve God very well as a single person. But I also believe that it is God’s will for most people to be married. As a daughter of a very kind, godly, and supportive father, marriage seems a very beautiful thing. And I know enough Christian men to realize that they are simply fellow human beings desiring to follow God – not an evil temptation to be avoided. I trust that many Mennonite girls (I know several) have the same viewpoint.
    So, I guess my final thought (before this turns into a manuscript) is that we as single Mennonite Christians would trust God to guide us to what He has next. Whether it’s working up the courage to ask one more person, waiting patiently and actively serving Him as we wait, or going on to become the best single soldier in God’s army that we can be, with His help.

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    • Thanks for your thoughts. It is definitely a topic with many angles to consider. I spent some time yesterday with a few conservative Mennonite women who had husbands who abused and/or left them for another woman, so I do understand that a young lady cannot throw caution to the wind or she might end up raising her children alone. But then there are the dozens of good and loyal men who never get a first date. I actually think it would be safer for girls to be able to date several guys and see the difference. Right now a young woman is pretty much locked in the moment she says yes. It makes her reluctant to say yes to a less flashy guy while simultaneously more vulnerable to the guy who knows how to charm. I believe a basis of comparison could be good. But truthfully there’s no perfect system when people are involved. We all need to learn to walk in faith rather than fear or we will be doomed to wander the wilderness like the children of Israel did.

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      • W.

        I did not mean to imply that non – Mennonite Christians cannot be committed to their marriage, only that they are not as likely to consider a marriage commitment binding for life.
        And I think it’s very sad if people cannot date with the freedom to break up if they so choose. That should not be looked down on, in my opinion.

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    • As far as divorce and worldly women, I’m not sure it is a dichotomy as you present it. I know a great many ‘worldly’ people with great relationships that have lasted the test of time. I also know many Mennonites in miserable marriages who might stick together because of cultural pressure and yet are divided as a divorced couple. So there is no guarantee of success within the culture or outside of it and the more important matter is faith. There are many faithful single people outside of the Mennonite culture.

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  11. Tim

    I’m young, single, and probably without wisdom however I will put forth my thoughts and will in the very least learn from my elders.
    I believe that a person should be fully content where he is (so long as it isn’t outside God’s will) that includes being fully content outside marriage.
    I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of marriage is however Paul does clearly state that singles have more potential for productiveness in the service of God than a married person does. I’m not saying that getting married is something one shouldn’t do I’m only saying that I think marriage is something that God will or will not call you to. If God calls you to marriage he will open the doors (which would make me think he is the “gatekeeper”). If opening the doors means a “yes” coming from a girls mouth then a “yes” will come forth (if the girl’s in tune with God in any case). I once heard a preacher comenting on how beautiful a thing it is when God has to shout at a young man to get him to leave the bliss of whole heartedly serving Christ and to ask a girl to come help him serve Christ.
    Please let me know if I’m at all off target as is not improbably the case. Also please pardon any lack of clarity due to an imperfect grasp of syntax.
    I would highly recommend Denny Kenaston’s “Godly Courtship” series I believe it can be freely accessed on Charity Christian Fellowship’s website. It touches on much more than the title might suggest.

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    • I was also once young and idealistic like you, brought up under similar “courtship” ideology to that to which you appear to currently endorse, and do understand the appeal of dismissing human choice using God’s sovereignty as an excuse.  (There is good Biblical basis and logical reason to believe that our choices are predestined.  Are you Calvinist in theology?) But, if God is completely sovereign over our choices, then why would we be held accountable for our actions?  I believe a) we are hold accountable according to Scripture, and therefore b) we must have some agency to make choices independent of God.  I believe we are given freedom to choose, we can choose to live in faith or fear and many young women are fearful because of the courtship idealism crammed down their throats.  I am encouraging faith.  I am encouraging a culture that would rather take a small risk in faith than blame their fear of commitment on God’s sovereignty.  Perhaps where you see this faithless idealism has not become an obstacle to the development healthy relationships.  If so, good for you.  However, do understand that it is not working everywhere and that there are many older singles who were once young and idealistic like you.  Seek their perspective rather than blindly follow after the teachings of a man.

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      • Tim

        No, I’m not of the Calvinistic persuasion. I go to a nondenominational church that would look very Mennonite.
        I understand that it is foolish, perhaps even heretical, to follow any one man’s teaching, Christ’s being the clear exception. However I received this teaching from my parents, my perhaps faulty interpretation of scripture, and at least two men of God (both married).
        I don’t think that we should just sir here saying “oh God will marry me off sometime” until all of a sudden we’re married. That would be using the “shield of faith” without using the “belt of truth”. I believe we should have faith that God is calling us to marriage WHEN HE CALLS US. Until then we need to be doing the work that is more difficult or impossible once married and and also be constantly prepared for God’s call wherever it leads, especially to marriage. The word “lead” indicates that there is someone following. Following requires faith.
        I’m not saying that the church should abuse our unattached state neither am I saying that the church is wrong in using our physical labour. However “there is to everything a season”. The married Christians in the church are in a different “season” of life. They provide a different service. They raise up men and women to take our place when we move past this season of life. Neither job is more or less important. Neither deserves less respect. I can’t say which is more difficult but I don’t think it matters.
        I don’t mean everything I’ve said here as absolutely truth. Rather as a statement of what my understanding on this topic. I’ve never heard this perspective before and would like to understand it more thoroughly.

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      • Well, I certainly can’t claim to have all the answers either. In fact, the older I get the less that seem to know, because there is always another question behind every question and I’ve found that many of the people whom I thought were reliable sources weren’t so great after all. Wisdom is in short supply.

        My advice is that you seek connection to the church bigger than your own particular group. Reach beyond your own confirmation bias and don’t only submit to a perspective a century or two old. Much of what is taught in fundamentalist churches today has nothing to do with Jesus and is the antithesis of faith.

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